The FAA finally takes steps to regulate Commercial UAVs

20 Feb , 2015  

After the leak of the document that would propose legislation for unmanned aerial vehicles on Saturday, February 14 2015, the FAA held a press conference the following day, on a Sunday, before a federal holiday, to unveil their 195 page proposal for regulating commercial UAVs (click here to view the full 195-page PDF document) or here to view a 2-page summary.

In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM, the aircraft would be limited to 55 lbs and a maximum speed of 100mph, would requiere testing and stricly line of sight to fly the craft. Here’s a summary of the proposal, from the FAA PDF.

Operational Limitations Further Summarized

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
  • Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.

These proposed rules would not allow for automated flying, first person view and would severely limit the scope of what an unmanned aerial vehicle can do. Out the window goes package delivery, crop monitoring and anything else that involves mission planning. By limiting flight to strictly line of sight, the only potential uses I see are perhaps aerial photography and videography or perhaps lifting and delivering light weight equipment, on a construction site.

On a positive note, it would require the operator of a UAV to get certified, which would at least ensure that these remote pilots are qualified to fly their vehicles. It would also requiere pre-flight checks and markings. There is a 60 day period of public input, but that period hasn’t started yet, so expect more concrete regulations or at least steps, coming this spring.